The Centers for Disease Control has partnered with an organization called the Produce for Better Health Foundation to spearhead an initiative called Fruits and Veggies ... More Matters.

I consider myself lucky this summer because my tomato plants have not been infected by the blight. I can go out on my deck every morning and pick enough tomatoes for the salad I am making for lunch that day. It's pretty great.


I come from a veggie family. My grandmother used to say things like, "Isn't this a wonderful meal? There are seven vegetables on your plate!" This time of year is amazing because we can all enjoy the freshest and most nutritious produce.


The Centers for Disease Control has partnered with an organization called the Produce for Better Health Foundation to spearhead an initiative called Fruits and Veggies ... More Matters.


You may remember the 5-A-Day campaign, which encouraged people to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. New research suggests that five to 14 cups of produce a day is a more accurate recommendation, based on your age, gender and activity level. You can find out just how many cups of produce your body requires by visiting www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.


For some people, that may mean doubling the amount of produce they consume on a daily basis to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Does that sound like too much to ask?


Here's the one simple thing you can do to make it happen: Make fruits and veggies about half of what you eat, every time you eat. Yes, it may take a change in your meal and snack planning, but the health benefits are well worth the effort. Here are just some of the essential nutrients that you'll get:


- Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. It is also needed for normal functioning of muscles, nerves and some glands.


- Diets rich in dietary fiber have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects, including decreased risk of coronary disease.


- Healthful diets with adequate folate may reduce a woman's risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect.


- Iron is needed for healthy blood and normal functioning of all cells.


- Magnesium is necessary for healthy bones and is involved with more than 300 enzymes in your body. Inadequate levels may result in muscle cramps and high blood pressure.


- Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.


- Sodium is needed for normal cell function throughout the body, but most diets contain too much sodium, which is associated with high blood pressure.


- Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps protect against infections.


- Vitamin K helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy.


With fall just around the corner, farmers markets will be wrapping up and we'll all start getting ready for cooler weather. But don't think that just because the summer is over, you can't get really great fresh produce. September, October and November play host to some wonderful seasonal fruits and vegetables, including apples, Belgian endive, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butter lettuce, butternut squash, cauliflower, chayote squash, cranberries, grapes, guava, jalapeno peppers, kumquats, mushrooms, passion fruit, pears, persimmons, pineapples, pomegranates, pumpkin, quince, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard and turnips.


Some of these may seem foreign, but a quick Internet search will give you more recipes than you know what to do with, so be adventurous and try something new. Also, remember that most fruits and vegetables can be frozen and still maintain their nutritional value and taste. Stock up on what's in season and on sale and freeze it for later.


My grandmother also used to say that "variety is the spice of life" and working an array of delicious fruits and vegetables into your daily diet will certainly help you with that.


Betsy Wadland is director of development for the Natick, Mass., VNA, a nonprofit health care organization providing home care to thousands of people throughout the region each year. For more information, call the VNA at 508-653-3081.